Ervin Santana Rumors

Jon Lester Rumors: Sunday

Here’s the latest on free agent ace Jon Lester.

  • The Giants are “very serious” about Lester, but are considering possible alternatives in case Lester doesn’t sign with them, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. Those alternatives include free agents Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Max Scherzer and James Shields, along with potential trade target Cole Hamels.
  • It looks like at least two teams have bid more than $130MM for Lester, Heyman writes. The Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers are all contenders for Lester, but the Cubs are reportedly trying to separate themselves, with an offer that could top $140MM. Lester appears likely to pick a new team by the end of this week’s Winter Meetings.

Quick Hits: Upton, Santana, Ethier, Blue Jays

Here’s the latest from around the majors:

  • The Orioles, Rangers, and Padres are still among the bidders for Braves outfielder Justin Upton, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. All three clubs have a need for a powerful outfielder, so it will be interesting to see where the bidding goes. It’s unclear if the Braves are targeting a specific position in return.
  • The Giants are showing interest in Ervin Santana and other starting pitchers, tweets Morosi. I assume this is due diligence as the club competes for Jon Lester. If they miss on the ace lefty, they will have groundwork laid for the next tier of free agent.
  • Andre Ethier has stated he would like to start in 2015 – be it for the Dodgers or another club, writes Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times. Ethier, 32 next season, has informed the club via his agent of his feelings. After spending much of last season as a part-time outfielder, Ethier is ready to get back into a regular role. Even with the club shopping Matt Kemp, it seems unlikely that a full time role will be available for Ethier in L.A.
  • The Blue Jays are focused on improving their bullpen at the Winter Meetings, reports Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. Toronto had the sixth worst bullpen ERA at 4.09, and they suffered through continual changes at the closer position – eight players recorded a save. Hiring a true closer and perhaps a setup man remain high on the Jays to-do list.

Free Agent Notes: Melky, Ervin, Headley, Miller, Soto

The Royals have reached out to a familiar name in the form of Melky Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s not clear if the Royals are able to afford Cabrera, who is said by Heyman to be seeking “at least” a five-year deal. He notes that the Reds have also contacted Cabrera’s camp. Additionally, Heyman lists the Mariners, Orioles and White Sox as speculative fits. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that the Blue Jays are still in touch with Cabrera as well. As many have pointed out, Toronto has just three outfielders on its 40-man roster at present. I profiled Cabrera in early October and projected a five-year deal worth just over $66MM.

Some more notes from the free agent market…

  • Also seeking a five-year deal is right-hander Ervin Santana, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. Santana is among the best of the bunch in the second tier of free agent starters, and he’s been rumored to have mutual interest with the Royals. However, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals’ comfort level is at three years with Santana. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected a four-year, $56MM contract for Santana.
  • Continuing on the theme of five-year contracts, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reports that the Yankees aren’t willing to give Chase Headley a five-year deal, and it’s believed by some that five years is now his asking price in the wake of both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signing in Boston. An alternative for the Yankees, Matthews writes, is to play Martin Prado at third base regularly and give prospect Rob Refsnyder a chance to be the everyday second baseman.
  • The Yankees, Red Sox and Astros are all continuing to show strong interest in free agent lefty Andrew Miller, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Miller is believed to be headed for a four-year deal, and the Astros have been somewhat surprisingly linked to him and fellow top reliever David Robertson.
  • Geovany Soto is currently talking to five or six teams, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. A reunion between Soto and the Rangers is a definite possibility, per Cotillo. The free agent market for catchers has few options remaining, putting Soto in a relatively good spot.
  • Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that 10 teams, including the Tigers, have reached out to free agent righty Ronald Belisario after he was designated for assignment by the White Sox and chose to elect free agency (Twitter link). Belisario has a track record of success but struggled in 2014 despite maintaining his velocity and ground-ball rate.
  • Nyjer Morgan is eyeing a return to the Majors and has drawn interest from both MLB and Asian clubs, tweets Cotillo. The 34-year-old spent a bit of time with the Indians last season but had his Cleveland tenure cut short by injury.


Cafardo On Fowler, Astros, Hammel, Miley

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe asked about a dozen GMs in Phoenix about the Yankees’ situation and not one of them thought the Bombers would stay away from a major signing.  For all the talk about the Cubs being a major player for Jon Lester, the Red Sox are still fearful that it’ll be the Yankees that swoop in and grab him.  More from today’s column..

  • Both center fielder Dexter Fowler and catcher Jason Castro are available in a deal and the Astros wouldn’t mind dealing for bullpen help.   Fowler had a decent year and enjoyed more success as a right-handed hitter.  The 28-year-old (29 by Opening Day) slashed .327/.419/.467 as a right-handed hitter but hit just .260/.361/.376 from the other side of the plate.  Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has heard that the asking price is high on Castro and that there aren’t any contract talks currently taking place between the two sides.
  • Jason Hammel’s agent, Alan Nero, told Cafardo that teams have called on his client but no great advancements have been made on a contract.  Nero figures the secondary pitching market may take a while to develop.
  • Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley has become a popular trade target of a few teams, and while Arizona will listen, it will take a haul to get him.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross wonders whether his status with the Red Sox hinges on whether they sign Jon Lester.  Lester and Ross had a great run together in 2013 and the catcher tells Cafardo that the two will get together after Thanksgiving.  Ross says that he’s begun to field interest from other teams in the interim.
  • The Phillies will shop Carlos Ruiz and while plenty of teams need catchers, his age (35) and his contract will be a problem.  Ruiz has two years left on his deal at $8.5MM per year plus a $4.5MM option for 2017 that can bought out for $500K.

Royals Notes: Butler, Rotation, Hunter, Peguero

The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.

Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:

  • In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
  • Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
  • Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
  • Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.

NL East Notes: Desmond, Fish, Phils, Hamels, Braves, Medlen

The Nationals made Ian Desmond a seven-year, $107MM extension offer last year, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, though that also included contract deferrals that would have reduced its true value. Negotiations are expected to pick back up in the months to come, per Kilgore, and that offer will presumably be the starting point. Desmond, who put up another strong year and is now one year away from the open market, is one key piece of the team’s increasingly pressing long-term strategic questions.

Here’s the latest out of the division:

  • The Marlins‘ interest in the starting pitching market is fairly diverse, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Possible trade targets range from buy-low (Ubaldo Jimenez) to buy-high (Johnny Cueto), and interest on the free agent markets includes Kyle Kendrick and Ervin Santana. The unifying force here is probably the expected ability of these varying arms to provide innings; as I noted yesterday, the Fish hope to add a solid, veteran presence to their staff.
  • Spencer also spoke with the Miami brass about Giancarlo Stanton, and discusses the team’s reasoning for trying to build a winner around him now, even if an extension cannot ultimately be worked out. “We’re trying to get away from that, that we have to trade everybody because they get expensive,” Hill said. “Enough of that. We want to win. We want to keep as many of our pieces as we can.”
  • There are “a lot of good fits” for Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is likely to be traded, sources tell Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Philadelphia is seeing interest in Ben Revere as well.
  • Of course, the flashier chip for the Phils is lefty Cole Hamels. As Salisbury reports, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “the free agent market will kind of dictate where this thing goes,” referring to the possibility of striking a deal. “[A]t some point the dominores will start to fall and then we’ll see where it takes us,” said Amaro, who notes that there is no need to deal Hamels since he “traverses the timeline” of contention that the club has in mind.
  • Hamels would prefer to be dealt, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale provides additional teams to which Hamels cannot decline a trade (on top of the previously-reported Cubs): the Yankees and Rangers are the two A.L. clubs, with the Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, and Padres among the National League teams.
  • The Braves increasingly sound inclined to aim for the near future, and we’ve already heard several prominent names listed as possible trade candidates. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman provides two more, via Twitter: reliever Jordan Walden (who projects to earn $3MM in arbitration) and young second baseman Tommy La Stella.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says the sides will “need to get creative” to work out a deal to keep Kris Medlen, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. While the team has every hope of keeping the righty, his second Tommy John procedure and $5.8MM projected arb price tag do not make for a straightforward situation given the team’s tight payroll. Sherman suggests that a significantly lower guarantee, combined with incentives and a 2016 option, could be palatable for both sides. It seems that Medlen would be able to do better, however, were he to force the Braves’ hand: he would either be tendered a contract, or hit the open market with plenty of suitors given his upside.

Central Links: Reds, Cubs, Avila, Tigers, Tomas, Butler

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
  • The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
  • John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
  • The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
  • Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.

Red Sox Links: Lester, Masterson, Gregerson

Could Jon Lester end up back with the Red Sox after all?  “A well-connected baseball executive who has had conversations on the subject with the Red Sox” predicted to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes that Lester would indeed re-sign with his old team.  The exec thought the Sox could be willing to relax their policy against signing pitchers in their 30’s to long-term contracts by offering Lester a six-year deal worth at least $20MM per season.  Unless Lester is still willing to give the Sox a bit of a discount, I would think it’ll take a lot more than six years/$120MM to outbid the field for Lester’s services — MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Lester would receive, at minimum, a six-year, $147MM contract this winter.  If the Red Sox were willing to give Lester a six/$120MM deal, I would think they would’ve just offered him that deal in extension talks last winter and avoided this entire situation.

Here’s some more from Fenway Park….


Mutual Interest Between Royals, Ervin Santana

The Royals have been in contact with right-hander Ervin Santana, who “is said to be very receptive to a return,” CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Santana is a fan of Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, among others in the K.C. organization.

After a tough 2012 season with the Angels, it was a move to Kansas City in 2013 that revived Santana’s career.  He posted a 3.24 ERA and 3.16 K/BB rate in 211 innings for the Royals that season, though thanks to a qualifying offer tag and perhaps some unrealistic expectations in free agency, Santana had to settle for a one-year deal with the Braves for 2014.

Santana is seeking a five-year contract this winter, Heyman reports, and the righty has more of an argument for that long a commitment given his strong performance with Atlanta.  Since he rejected the Braves’ qualifying offer, the team that signed Santana would have to give up a 2015 draft pick — in the Royals’ case, it would cost them the 24th overall selection.  That said, since James Shields also rejected his QO and seems likely to sign elsewhere, the Royals will receive a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.

Essentially, signing Santana would cost the Royals a drop of roughly ten spots or so in the 2015 draft, which the club might decide is worth it to reinforce the rotation.  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected Santana for a four-year, $56MM deal, which would normally seem steep for the Royals, yet I suspect they could be willing to spend a bit more freely this winter in the wake of their great postseason performance.


All 12 Players Reject Qualifying Offer

Last Monday, 12 players received one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers. Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer were all on the receiving end of the offer. The deadline to accept or reject the offer is today at 4pm CT.

A quick primer for those who are unfamiliar: Baseball’s newest collective bargaining agreement did away with the old Type A/B designations for free agent draft pick compensation. The newer system, which is now in its third year, allows teams to make qualifying offers to a player that has spent the entire season with that organization (i.e. players traded midseason are ineligible). That offer is set at the average salary of baseball’s 125 highest-paid players. Should the player reject, a new team will be required to forfeit its top unprotected pick to sign that player (the top 11 picks of this year’s draft are protected). His former team then receives a comp pick at the end of the first round. To this point, none of the 22 players to receive a QO have accepted.

The expectation is that most of the players who received the QO, with the possible exception of Cuddyer, will reject. We’ll keep track of the players that reject the QO here…

  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that no player has accepted this year’s qualifying offer.
  • MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports that Martinez has rejected the qualifying offer (Twitter link).
  • Robertson has turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link).
  • Cuddyer, of course, has essentially rejected his qualifying offer by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Mets.

Earlier Updates

  • Ramirez has rejected the Dodgers‘ QO, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweets. As perhaps the top position player on this year’s open market, the move comes as little surprise. Ramirez figures to seek a contract north of $100MM+ as a free agent.
  • Santana will reject the Braves‘ qualifying offer and search for a multi-year deal on the open market, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move was widely expected after Santana enjoyed a solid season with the Braves. As he showed last winter, even if the market doesn’t materialize for him in the form of a multi-year deal, a one-year offer at or near the value of a QO is still attainable, so there’s little downside in trying to cash in.
  • Both Sandoval and Martin have reportedly rejected their QOs prior to today’s deadline. Sandoval rejected his in the middle of last week, while news of Martin rejecting came last night.